Sweet Evening Breeze By Jeffery A. Jones, PhD
“His most notable drag performance was at the Woodland Auditorium where he was lowered from the ceiling in a basket dressed in “feminine frills” and danced the “Passion Dance of the Bongo Bangoes.”
ames Herndon was born in Scott County, KY and was the youngest of John and Kate Herndon's eight children. According to Leigh Angelique,local entertainer, drag queen, and friend of the late Mr. Herndon, James was born in 1889, one year prior to Leigh's grandmother. In his many decades living in Lexington, KY he was widely regarded as the city's most colorful character, and there are numerous stories (both true and legendary) about Herndon. In fact, few Lexingtonians really know 8
him as James Herndon. He is more widely known by his nickname, "Sweet Evening Breeze," or "Miss Sweets." He often wore make-up, occassionally performed or appeared on Main St. on Saturdays in drag, and was apparently quite effeminate. Long before there was RuPaul, Lexington's Sweet Evening Breeze was titallating and gaining respect from locals. For most of his long life, Sweets worked at Good Samaritan Hospital. Taken to the hospital for an eye
injury by his uncle as a child, he was left overnight there. Details are obscure, but apparently the boy was basically left at the hospital. He became friends with Miss Lake Johnson, the hospital superintendent, who gave him a room there. He eventually began delivering the hospital mail and playing his ukulele for patients. Through his late childhood and teen years spent living and working in the hospital, he finally learned the profession of orderly, a career that he followed for 40 years at
Good Sams. He was widely regarded as the best orderly in the hospital and usually trained new orderlies. Eventually moving to Prall Street, a part of a hundred year old African-American neighborhood across from UK behind Alfalfa's and Bourbon St. Cafe, he filled his home with antiques and kept it spotlessly clean by all reports. Considering that Herndon lived in the era of segregation, his job as an orderly gave him a relatively high income for African-American Lexingtonians during the
October 2013 LinQ Magazine: A Publication of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington, KY.